According to a new research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the use of practitioner-led complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) such as acupuncture, massage, osteopathy and chiropractic therapy has grown in England. However, there were inequalities in its access in terms of gender, region, and socioeconomic background.
Researchers at the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care surveyed a sample of 4862 respondents in England regarding their CAM use in the last 12 months.
Sixteen per cent of the population in 2015 was found to use CAM compared to 12% in 2005. The use of CAM was higher among women vs men and among higher socioeconomic groups vs lower socioeconomic groups. Regionally, south of England had twice as many CAM users compared with the North and Midlands. 67% of patients reported paying for the treatment themselves or had it paid for by friends. 70% of users reported self-referral or recommendation by a friend or family.
The primary indications for CAM use were for musculoskeletal problems, especially back pain (38%), and other musculoskeletal pain (22%). CAM was also being increasingly used for mental health issues such as minor depression, anxiety or stress (7%) and sleep problems, tiredness or fatigue (4%).
Dr Ava Lorenc, co-author of the study said: "Greater integration of CAM services into NHS primary care could address the inequality in access that we found, for example, through social prescribing."